Choosing a saints names for your confirmation is a tradition held in both the Eastern and Western ancient churches. When Michelle and I were in the RCIA program and converting to the Catholic faith, I struggled with purpose of the tradition of choosing a saints name. My reasoning was that my mother had already named me after the guy who wrote most of the new testament, and I never saw the point in tinkering with that. I resisted, and at first I was told you have to choose a saint, but when I pushed back I was finally told that it’s only a tradition, and it’s not necessary for confirmation. So using my protestant stubbornness, I did not fill out any name and kept the one I was given, never even choosing a saint to help me on my journey.
In the ancient church it was common practice that once you where baptized you where given a new name, so for instance Saul become Paul, names in the ancient world where more than just a monicker, they where expressive of who you were as a person. And it was common in the Jewish tradition to name children after patriarchs and other holy figures. The idea was that baptism was creating a new person, and that should be reflected in everything you do, including your name.
But when you come from a protestant background, you learn to be suspicious of tradition, the line of thinking goes like this:
“Is this just a tradition of men, or is it something that I can find in the bible?”
That thinking is based on ‘Sola Scriptura’ which almost all of the protestant world holds today, it can be even held with those who practice ‘Prima Scriptura’ (or those who hold tradition and scripture as equal). So even with the clear biblical reference to this tradition, I was never comfortable enough in the Catholic Faith to allow myself a little grace to some of the rules. Looking back it was partly the lightweight nature of the RCIA class, and the speed at which we converted. Nine months sounds like a long time, but in reality it’s a short time to absorb so much information. And the fact that our RCIA classes where more about how we felt, learning the true foundations of the Church, didn’t help the situation.
But now things have changed, I’ve had a lot more time to dig, study and ponder. I left the Catholic Church and am moving East to a church older than the one in Rome, Antioch. And this move has taken a lot longer to even commit to being a Catechumen, in fact Michelle figured out that it’s been a year since we started talking to the Antiochian Orthodox Church. That time has been very helpful to building my faith and confidence in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, I’ve been able to absorb more information, and have spent that time talking to people who have gone before us, learning their experiences as well.
When Fr. Mark asked me about a Saints name, my off the cuff answer was St Paul, since we both shared the same name. In fact Fr. Mark did the same thing, saying it was an easy choice. But I’ve began to rethink my position, and while St Paul is a wonderful Saint, and someone I would be proud to have for my confirmation name. It almost feels like I’m cheating the process, Michelle is taking St Michael the Arch Angel for her patron saint (figures since he was a warrior and she is the toughest person I know). Her decision has caused a good bit of fun ribbing on my part, but I was surprised to know that people choose Saint from the opposite gender all the time, who knew?!!!
I started thinking about all the different Saints out there, I dug, researched, poked, prodded. And nothing… I couldn’t find any that seems to be worthwhile or should I say fitting, I wanted someone who crossed over between East and West. I know I wanted someone early, and someone influential, and that’s when it hit me like a thunderbolt!!
He was the 2nd or 3rd Pope in the Church (depending on who you read, there is a theory that Linus and Clement both where the bishop of rome for a time, until Linus was martyred, leaving Clement), regardless he is a Saint in both the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, and was a Pope regardless of what Anti Papacy writers think. His writings where long held as part of the canon of the new testament, not making by the fact that he was not a direct apostle. I’ve read his works, there’s not much of them, but boy are they powerful. And he was a man who helped guide the church right at the very beginning, there is even speculation that Paul refers to him in the new testament.
More importantly to my way of thinking, he crosses the bridge between East and West, which for me is important. Because while I am becoming Orthodox, I don’t want to abandon all that the Catholic Church has given to me. There are some great Saint that are exclusively Eastern and Western and I didn’t want to go down that path, I’m not trying to make a statement with my conversion, I was looking, and found the church of the book of Acts.
So hopefully, if the Bishop approves, this easter (which is May 5th year for the Antiochian church), I’ll be confirmed as Clement. There is a chance that the Bishop may want me to spend more time as a catechumen, but he’s the Bishop and I’m not, and I’ll accept what ever he says. This is certainly a transformation for someone who just two years ago was digging in ready to make the RCIA class PROVE that a saints name was needed
Thank God for his mercy, to let a stubborm sinner like me, see the truth of his word, and the church’s traditions.
-Clement (who was formally Paul)-
I guess I need to work on a signature line.
I read the news today about the Pope stepping down at the end of the month, it was a little surprising but for me it shows the character of the Joseph Ratzinger. Even before becoming Catholic I admired Pope Benedict, I think he did a great job during a very difficult time for the Church, and I have been encouraged as he began to stamp out the odd liberalism that has plagued the Catholic Church since Vatican II. In the next month we are going to be inundated with opinions about what the Catholic Church should address next, I’m sure there will be no end to the homosexual and women as clergy nonsense. I also expect contraception to be high on the list, while I don’t agree %100 with the church on this issue when it comes to marriage, I do support the church on the rest of the issues surrounding contraception, and I’m %100 with them on Abortion.
But here’s the thing, I think what Pope Benedict is doing shows just how good of a Pope he is, we live in very fast times, the information age has changed the way we do theology, live our lives, and learn about who we are. It has allowed an uprising of opposition voices to overwhelm the Church’s message at times, and the Vatican has been a little slow in coming around. It’s part of the history of the Church, when your two thousand years old, let’s see how fast you can react. But I think in this time of rising apostasy the church needs someone at the helm who can take charge and deal with the worlds changes head on. Ratzinger knows this, and it’s been obvious for a while that he has not been well physically, so the move to retire is the best move he could make. It shows his love of the Church, and his desire for her to confront the onslaught she faces in today’s world. I know Catholics are sad he’s leaving, but you could not have asked for a better man to fill that position, and it’s clear that rather than hold onto the position, he desires more than anything, that the Church go forward. The man is a Saint in my book, and I have nothing but respect for what he’s doing.
Now to my noggin:
Two weeks ago I was walking into work, carrying a box of cookies in one hand, and my iPad Mini in the other. It was a very cold January morning, it had been snowing and was warm the day before, as I approached our office I noticed a co-working walking about 30 feet in front of me. What happened next I can’t tell you, because the next thing I knew, my co-worker was sitting over me patting me on the fact trying to wake me up. It gets a little fuzzy after that, I remember my fingers tingling like crazy and two co-workers helping me walk into the building. I sat at my desk and started to feel bad, it was about that time that my boss called an ambulance. Next thing I know I’m surrounded by men who are talking to me, checking my vitals and finally strapping me to a board and carting me out the front door. This was not how I wanted to leave work that day!
I always wondered what it would be like to ride in the Ambulance, and now I know, and friends, it’s not good. First they roll you in, your strapped down 20 ways from sunday, and your stretcher locks into the frame of the vehicle, which means any bump it hits, you feel. As we got rolling the paramedic pulls out and I.V. kit, I asked him if he was seriously going to do that while we where moving?, and he said “It’s not a problem, I do this all the time”. Well maybe not a problem for him, but for me it hurt like hell, so not only was I dizzy, he poked with an 18 gauge needle!
Once we arrived at the emergency room, my shirt was removed and I was sent to get a CT scan to see if I had scrambled my noggin. The E.R. however was packed with other people who had suffered my same fate, so I sat, or rather laid, with a neck brace in a room waiting to be seen. Uncomfortable does not cover it, Michelle showed up and I not afraid to admit that I shed some tears, it was all so overwhelming for me. Finally after about 30 minutes they pull me in to scan my noggin. Now I’m a big guy, and it took four nurses to move me onto the CT machine, they do it just like you see on T.V. shows, hup, heave, and over. I laid there unable to move while the machine spun away, then I was hup, heaved, and back over to my stretcher, and back into my room.
It was then they gave me some pain killers and nausea meds through the I.V. and for a time, Life was good. Then the Doc showed up, no visible damage, but most likely a concussion, and a good one at that. He wanted to me to try and sit up, little did I know that my brain had other insidious plans… The moment I moved from laying on the stretcher to sitting upright, the room transformed into Mr. Toads Wild Adventure, and spun like crazy. I almost lost my breakfast, so the nurse, being the angel that she was, gave me more drugs. And that did the trick I was able to slowly sit up, and eventually walk. After about three hours, they let me leave, but I had to see a specialist later in the week. It turns out that I have a level 4 concussion, and walking for the first week was an adventure, just going to the bathroom was like a funhouse of evil. And laying down to go to sleep, well, have you ever watched a cat watching a ping pong ball bounce up and down. That was pretty much what my eyes did, it was loads of fun.
I finally got in to see the Doc, and he basically told me to go home, rest, no computer, no laptop, no tablet, short amounts of reading and T.V. And that it would take a couple of weeks to heal, my balance would be wonky, and I was not to drive. So I have spent the last two weeks driving the recliner, watching terrible old T.V. shows, lots of documentaries, read theology and Lee Child books. I’ve been bored out of my mind. Finally today I saw the doc, did my third test, and was finally cleared for work starting next week, which is the best news I could get. It’s been quite an adventure, I’m considering a hockey helmet at all times, and we actually bought strap on spikes for my shoes.
This episode while painful and frustrating, has taught me a valuable lesson. We have people who love and support us no matter what, it’s been humbling how much support we have gotten through this. We are not yet fully Orthodox, but the family has stepped up in such a big way to support us that I’m at odds on how to say thank you correctly. We have friends who are from a different faith completely, and have shown more grace and the love of Christ than anyone else we know. I think the lesson here was to learn to let go, it’s a hard lesson for both of us, especially me the control freak. God has blessed us through both the church family at the Antiochian parish, and through friends who just want to make sure we are taken care of.
I’m not sure how many more CSI reruns I can watch on Hulu, computer time is still limited (I’m just about out of Gas on this now), but I can’t help but to feel truly blessed by God, and the people around us.
I realized after writing my last piece that I didn’t fully answer Devins question, it had been on my mind for a few days. So I sat down last night and wrote it out while it was still freshin my mind, then ran upstairs and started working on our renovations…
Here again is Devins question:
“But if you became Catholic while believing that the Catholic Church was in error in one or more of her doctrines, that perhaps reveals that you never fully accepted that God has guided and is guiding her into all truth. Do you believe that God is guiding the EO Churches, protecting them from error in their doctrines? Not accusing, not trying to trap you, just curious.”
So the last part of his question about if God is guiding the EO churches protecting them from error in their doctrines. It’s a complicated answer, and something I have thought about for a long time. But first let me state that I am not a theologian, or an apologist. I’ve been studying Philosophy when my schedule allows (hopefully will get a degree one day), and I love to dig and study, but by no means should someone bank their salvation on anything I say. I have done some study under Michael Patton over at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, and have a huge debt of gratitude for his program that teaches lay people theology.
So let’s start with some biblical references to set the stage:
St Paul in talking to the church in Philippi makes the following statement:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
(Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)
He goes on to explain that he is straining and pressing on toward the Goal of being Christ like. His admonition has always stuck with me, I never stop trying to make sure that what I am doing, believing, practicing, helps to make me a better man spiritually.Then we get to 1st John:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6 ESV)
Finally there are the Bereans:
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
(Acts 17:10-15 ESV)
The Bereans have influenced me greatly since coming back to find my faith, I love the fact that they didn’t just take Paul at his word, but went and studied everything he said before believing. So today in our Christian world, we have three main divisions all claiming to have some type of Apostolic succession and the “truth” about the Gospel:
- The Catholic Church
- The Eastern Orthodox Church
- The Protestant Churches
I can easily dismiss the Protestants with a minimal amount of study into both history and scripture, been there, have the funny hats, not doing it again.
But the other two are harder to deal with, much harder.
Protestants by and large, have gone on a rampage against the Catholic faith since Luther introduced his own unique view of the Gospel in 1516. Granted Luther had some very valid concerns about the Catholic Church, but those things eventually got fixed.
So now you have two Churches both claiming Apostolic succession, and both can show a direct historical lineage back to their foundations from the Apostles. So that’s a tie…
Both claim to be the ‘One True Church’, and here comes the rub in this whole thing. Both churches have been plagued by bad decisions, neither side has been ‘Protected’ by God. Catholic apologist will split hairs and say that the dogma of the faith has only been changed by the Papacy a few times, and that is the only time that Papal infallibility comes into play.
It’s true in one sense, but in another, the view from the Catholic side that the Papacy was handed universal authority on matters of faith here on earth, has been problematic. Adding the Immaculate Conception in 1854, the doctrine of Papal infallibility in 1870, and the Assumption of Mary to the dogma of the church in 1965, should give anyone pause. In my view the issue with the Papacy is not being the Primate of the Bishops, I think that role is desperately needed. But when you translate Christs words to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew to mean that suddenly Peter and his successors have this divine control over the whole church, things get a little weird. You are putting the very fate of the church into the hands of one single man, who by his very nature, shares the same sinfulness as Adam did. Humans are sinful, all of us, and to claim that somehow the Papacy is specially protected is not something I can find a good solid argument for. Either from the writings of the early church fathers, or scripture. After all, we either have free will like Adam and Eve, or the Pope has some special providence that again I can’t find any reference material for.
The Orthodox Church views changing the dogma of the faith differently, they believe that only in ecumenical councils, with the Primate of Rome attending, can the dogma or the teachings of the church be modified. I think that’s a good thing, because having one person other than Christ making those kinds of changes is terrifying. On the other hand, as Devin correctly points out, without Rome, the Orthodox Church has not made any dogmatic changes since 1032.
There has been all manners of bad things that have come from both the Catholics and the Eastern Churches, and it seems that some don’t want the schism to end, I’ve already run into that nonsense on the EO side, and I won’t stand for it. But I am stuck in the middle, so I have to choose what is right. I have to work where I want to worship, and give freely of my talents. And it sucks, this is not a fun place to be. I’m tired of polemics, apologetics who don’t concede anything, or worse, take history out of context to bolster their case.
So who is right? Neither in my opinion, or at least fully. When you involve mankind in anything holy, they screw it up, its our very nature since Adam and Eve took the first bite. I don’t believe that either side can show with full certainty that they are the ‘One True Church’, they will claim it, boy will they claim it. But Johns words live in my heart, test all things by the spirit, don’t be easily deceived.
After all my study, listening, thinking, praying. I believe that the Orthodox have a closer handle on what the Apostles handed to them, I don’t think they are perfect. My hope is that East and West can unite, with Rome as the primate of the bishops, and the ancient churches living in unity. But until that time, I’m a man caught in the middle.
I will only truly be satisfied when I finally get to meet Christ face to face, then and only then will I trust another human being fully with my salvation. That’s no small thing, given that literally everyone thinks THEY have it right somehow. So for my own part, I have to weigh the options, and then make the choice that I believe God is telling me to make. What irritates me is when people assume that they are the only ones who know the full truth, because in that sense the words of St Paul could not be any clearer:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)
I have definitely found a more comfortable, loving environment in the Orthodox church, if I can just get past the alien nature of their liturgy and pious nature, I’ll be set
Come quickly Lord Jesus and fix this mess.
In my last post about crossing the river to begin my journey to the Orthodox faith, Devin asked this question:
“But if you became Catholic while believing that the Catholic Church was in error in one or more of her doctrines, that perhaps reveals that you never fully accepted that God has guided and is guiding her into all truth. Do you believe that God is guiding the EO Churches, protecting them from error in their doctrines? Not accusing, not trying to trap you, just curious.”
It’s a great question, and I mulled it over for quite a while before answering, partly because I wanted to make sure I gave an honest response, and partly because I had to stop and go back and think about my (our) reasoning.
I left the Evangelical world in 2008, and Michelle was not far behind. We are wired differently, she can let things slide that drive me up a tree, it makes a good combination for a long stable marriage. When I began too question things that we were being taught in church, she knew where I was headed, but was never really bothered over the inconsistencies like I was. It took her a while longer to reach the point of simply giving up and going Apostate.
A year later we started looking again, tired, empty hearted, but still believing. We wanted to find a good solid, biblical church home, what ensued was a very difficult period for us, where we tried all the major flavors of the evangelical world. We ended up in the Anglican church for a while, but finally came to the conclusion that there wasn’t enough oversight and structure. We loved the people, but we had concerns with how things were run, so we stopped going to church altogether for a while.
When we finally ended up at the doors of the Catholic Church, we were worn out, emotionally drained, and very cautious. After our first mass (which was the feast of the Annunciation, the worst thing a cautious Mary fearing protestant should see on their first visit). We met with the RCIA director at the largest parish in town a few weeks later, and then two days later the first RCIA of the year was being held. We took that as a sign of providence, because we had been debating about if we should even go and ask about RCIA. That started a long 9 months of study, struggles, questions and endless discussion.We stopped receiving communion, and did everything that was asked of us.
I wanted to quit more than once, I loved the people, but there was no deep study or discussions (I did what study I could, but had not strong mentors who could answer theological questions). There where bright spots to be sure, but it seemed that they were more concerned with how we felt, rather than teaching the true orthodoxy of the church. When we started to get near confirmation, I asked a very pointed question about what we where agreeing too. I was told that all I needed to believe in was the Apostles Creed, that was all that was required. I tried in vain to get my fingers on the confirmation text the Church was using, but there was a desire on the part of the administration to keep those details safe until the day of confirmation.
I was very frustrated more than once with need to keep things secret from us, when we where accepted as candidates, I asked repeatedly what the ceremony contained. I was told it would ruin the surprise, I would have quit then if not for my wife. I take oaths very seriously, and it still gets under my skin that I could not get direct and solid answers to my questions. When we sponsored our candidates I made sure that nothing was held back from them if they wanted to know, I know that the Church means no malice. But these things matter, and with all the dangerous religious garbage out there, being fully open about ceremonies and details is crucial in my opinion.
When we finally got to confirmation, I was a nervous wreck. More than once I wanted to bolt, and had it not been for my wife, and my need to once again take communion, I would have avoided the whole mess. I wanted to enter into the Church quietly, without fanfare, and begin to serve. But I was forced into a large, crowded ceremony (which for me is a hard thing to deal with), with no idea what was going to happen. I could not find out what I was going to be asked to agree too, or the scope, and by this time I just wanted it over with.
So on Easter Sunday 2011, we did everything we were asked, and against what my head was telling me, I agreed to be confirmed into the Catholic faith.
A year later I still have mixed feelings about that day, all I wanted was someone to sit down with me and explain what was about to happen in detail, go over what I was agreeing too. And to make sure that all my questioned where answered, but there where so many in our group, that simply never happened. I tried to move more than once to our local parish RCIA where I could get more personal attention, but my wife wanted to stay, so I stayed.
What I realize now is that I would have probably never gotten those answers, the Church uses a program that is geared towards feelings, or what I call “Touchy Feely Nonsense”, and it strays from hard Orthodoxy. Bibles where trucked in for the class, and then taken away, as if we had never seen one before. The whole thing felt like a government training program geared to the lowest common denominator, I’m not trying to be unkind, it’s just hard to explain how bad it was for us. Making matters worse was that getting an appointment with a priest was nearly impossible, the Church has a serious shortage, and one priest for a parish of 10,000 parishioners is just nuts! I met with Deacons when possible, but when you start asking technical questions about salvation, original sin, free will, and things like monergism and synergism. Well you get some pretty strange looks…
So did I have questions when I joined?, yes a number of them in fact. But after reading Francis Beckwith’s book on his conversion, I took his same idea which was if the Church got the big things right, then the little ones would fall in place. Never once where we handed the Dogma of the faith, and told this is what is required to be a Catholic. Those kind of hard discussions sadly never happened, I’m not sure I would have joined or not, but it would have made me more comfortable with the whole process.
Michelle and I talked a great deal before we entered into the Church, we were so bruised and worn out, that we needed to become part of something. We LOVED the liturgy, the reverence for the Eucharist, and all the trappings. And I couldn’t break her heart and bail at the last minute, so at the time it seemed like the best of all options to simply join. And I actually have not regretted it, I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in the faith, I love our parish and the Catholic way of life.
But I never stopped digging for answers, and the more I dug, the more I started to find things that didn’t seem right. Papal Infallibility, the assumption of Mary, and immaculate conception being made dogma (all within the last 14o years or so). The Churches stand on contraception and Natural Family Planning, liturgical nonsense that takes place even still today. When I started to seriously look into the Orthodox faith, I learned more about my Catholic faith, than I did from the Catholics. And I started to see that so much of what the Orthodox church believed, aligned with what my studies had told me.
So I’m now in the process of leaving, not because I want to, but because if I don’t, I can’t say I’m being honest with myself. I love the Catholic Church, I really do. But there are things I just can’t sit by and ignore anymore, and for me personally, I’m either committed to it fully, or it’s just going to be painful because I’ll know in my deepest parts that I simply don’t agree.
The hardest part for me has been putting my wife back through another long search, I feel terrible. It was so painful the last time, she has been very stern about not just jumping ship. But the more we have talked the more she has come to realize that there are issues we would need to compromise on, and so she has followed me on this new journey.
So there it is, in all it’s dark glory. We are on a new journey, and the Orthodox church is like entering an alien landscape, they even cross themselves the opposite of Catholics! We have done two vespers services, and it’s not getting any easier. What helps is that everyone is a convert and knows exactly what we are going through, people have shown us so much love and patience, that it takes the edge off (but not by much yet). So my heart knows this is the right thing, but my head is screaming “RUN YOU IDIOT, RUN!!!”
Last night, Michelle and I had the extreme pleasure of spending an evening sharing Vespers, faith, questions and much laughter with Fr. Mark Fenn and his Wife Michelle, of the Antiochian Orthodox Church here in Boise.
We learned a great deal about the Orthodox faith, a lot of questions were put to rest, I learned some things that floored me, and we felt loved and welcome. From the moment we tentatively walked through door (late as usual), we were made to feel at home. We had never attended vespers, it was other worldy, simple, austere, and moving.
When Vespers ended Fr. Mark sat with us and gave us a lesson on how the Orthodox faith is structured, showed us around the Sanctuary, and answered a lot of questions, his wife Michelle was headed over to the Russian Orthodox church to see parishioners who where celebrating a baptism. That was my first shock, that parish members from one Orthodox church would go visit the other one, when I inquired, I was told all three Orthodox parishes in town consider themselves all one faith. That’s certainly different than the divisions I had read about.
Fr. Mark, was beyond gracious and patient, showing love and compassion to our questions. Later in the evening his wife Michelle came back by, and the four of us discussed the faith. Both answering questions and concerns with grace, it was very moving for us. One thing that we have missed in the Catholic faith, is loving fellowship. It’s something that Protestants get right (when it’s not out of balance, it’s a wonderful thing), and something that we have missed for a long time. That’s not to say that Catholics are cold, they aren’t. We have met some warm and wonderful Catholics. But let’s be honest, in our experience Catholics by and large don’t really open up until you have been around them a while, we felt like interlopers for the first 4 months or so at our Parish.
What we found last night, was the one thing that we felt was missing from the Catholic faith we have been part of for a couple of years now, that is Grace. Not some conceptual, theological term, but real, down to the core, loving Grace. Let me give you an example, in the Catholic Church, if you miss a day of obligation (mass on Sunday, or certain calendar events) on purpose, you have committed a Mortal sin, and you must seek reconciliation or your very soul is in danger. Orthodox don’t think you should be missing Mass, but they aren’t about to declare you in mortal danger of losing your soul if you skip a service.
Another difference that we keyed in on, is that both Faiths do confession, but the Orthodox treat it less mechanically than the Catholic faith does, in fact your priest becomes your confessor. Getting to know you at a very personal level, and confession becomes a tool to not only forgive sins, but to help your faith grow. Reconciliation for us has been more mechanical, you go, confess, are forgiven, do your penance and off you go. It’s vastly more intimate in the Orthodox faith, part of that could be that the Catholic Church is in dire need of priests.
For the first time, I found someone saying, what I had found in the bible, and the early church fathers. There was a foundation that was built on love and grace, and it flowed into every word spoken. Michelle has been hesitant about this direction, but has allowed me to follow the truth and see where it lands us. She’s still wants to search things out more, and we both still have more questions that need to be answered.
But I’ve finally found the shore I was looking for, I’m sure of it, my heart settled in for the first time last night, there are more questions to be sure, but no more deep nagging ones. I love the Catholic Faith, I will always be in love with the faith of Rome, I can’t express that enough. I wish with all my being that the Schism of 1032 could be repaired, because the Orthodox could benefit from Catholics, and the Catholics could learn so much from the Orthodox faith. But there are things about the Catholic Faith that are just so unnecessary, the dogmatizing of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, the legalistic nature of the catechism, infallibility. The reactionary nature of the Church to contraception, while endorsing Natural Family Planning (and yes, I mean in the sense of using it as contraception).
Those and many other inconsistencies have nagged at me for a long time, I don’t have all the answers I need just yet, but after last night I discovered what my study had told me was so, that the Orthodox have held TIGHTLY to the original teaching of the Apostles. They haven’t added onto it, or constructed a bunch of rules around it, they leave it as is. It’s what I hoped the Catholic Church had done, but I just don’t believe that anymore. I will always be Catholic, just not a practicing Roman Catholic any longer. I setup a meeting next week too sit with the Vicar and tell him my intentions to join the Orthodox faith. Michelle is holding out to see how it all plays out, but she told me to follow my convictions.
I started the process, there’s no turning back now.
And I get to be a Catechumen again (still not sure about that), and learn a whole new way of practicing my faith (I can’t even pronounce the Philokalia right, so I have A LOT to learn). It’s a little scary, and a whole lot exciting. I didn’t cry when we got Confirmed in the Catholic Faith, mostly because by that time I was so worn out from all the nonsense that was RCIA. But I teared up this morning in Mass, I’m going to miss the beauty of the Mass. However I’m looking forward to being accepted into the Orthodox faith.
Then I can finally say that my journey has taken me from one side of the Christian faith, to the other. From many shores to a select few, and finally to one…
Pray for me as I row to another shore…
I’ve been searching for a very long time, the journey has been wonderful and terrible, all at the same time. Michelle has settled into the Catholic way of life, and we have been faithful to the agreement that was made on the day of our confirmation. So much has changed in the last 7 years, children growing up, leaving, sometimes on different paths than we would have chosen. Our time in the Evangelical Wilderness made us much wiser than when we first arrived there, but we still have a long, long ways to go.
Our faith has changed as well, what was once acceptable in our evangelical beliefs, are now the very things we shy away from. We have also taken the time to educate ourselves, and submit to the teaching of others. I will never know enough for me to be fully comfortable with my faith, but that is the way my maker wired me, I accept it and live with it everyday. As I have mentioned before I have been studying the Orthodox faith for some time now, the more I read the more it dawns on me just how common sense most Eastern Orthodoxy theology is. My one regret is that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox can’t fix the schism of 1032, it has caused me a great deal of consternation.
There are so many things that the two churches agree on, that it seems silly they can’t find some way to heal the rift and go back into mutual communion. But then one reads the declarations of Vatican I, and Vatican II and you realize that Rome for all it’s beauty missed the mark on infallibility, divine authority of the papacy (not primacy mind you) pushing a belief that one cannot find in the early church. Add to that the dogma of the immaculate conception, the consumption of Mary, the Filoque, and the liturgical abuses since Vatican II, the legalistic nature of the churches teaching, and you begin to realize the actual scope of the problem.
I’ve been looking East for a time now, and the one thing that has kept me away is that by the canon of the Catholic Church, I cannot take communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Frustrating, but I did agree to follow the teaching of the Catholic Church (by the way that agreement, does not cover my objections and questioning). So now to experience the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy, I have to play a shell game, take communion at my local parish (because, it’s a mortal sin to not take weekly communion), the rush over to share in the liturgy at my local Orthodox Church. To even experience their liturgy means that I have to juggle schedules, because I can’t miss weekly mass.
However, tomorrow night we are heading over to share in the Saturday Night Vespers service. The Fr. was gracious and offered to meet with us before service and go over questions that we both have. So we are going to dip our toe in the pool, meet with the good Fr. and begin to get a feel for where this is all leading. I will do a more detailed post on why I’ve been looking east for so long, and why I’m slowly coming to realize that it may be where we needed to be all along.
I want to make a couple of points very clear so there is no misunderstanding, Michelle and I both love the Catholic Church. We love the liturgy, the sacraments, and being part of the church family. But I have always had some reservations, and as I have dug into the past, some have gone away, but a small important set have stayed. Some have been game changers for me, that doesn’t mean I intend to bash Catholics in any way shape or form. I just have core issues that I disagree with, I have not found any apologist who can make an airtight case on those issues. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but in my own studies, I’ve concluded that some things just aren’t as clear as they are made out to be. The one thing that drew us into the Catholic faith was the idea of a centralized leadership, coming from the evangelical world where everyone makes up their own rules, and dealing with mainlines, who have no real structure or control over their parishes, the Catholic model makes so much sense. The Papacy IS in the early writings of the church fathers, but it’s different than what we have today, but the Bishop of Rome has had a seat of primacy since first century AD.
And we haven’t left yet, we are just exploring to see what the Orthodox have to offer, to find out first hand, rather than learning it from a book. Its a pattern we have done before, the difference this time is that we have done a great deal of research to get to this point, so we have a good solid understanding of what we are looking for. But boy did it take a long time!!!
A long time ago, in a place far away, we met some very special people. We shared a love for computers, and all things geek, we never feared being different. We embraced it, and it made us all stronger. It was in that period of our lives that we met Tami, she was dating a co-worker at the time and she quickly became our friend. I can remember sitting over at their house late a night talking about AOL, and the online world and where it was headed. Tami, Michelle, and our good friend Debbie became a trio. To this day I cannot think of anyone who had more fun, got into more trouble, or caused as much angst as those three. What I remember the most is the laughter, over just about everything.
During a time of crisis at my employer, our friendship was directly challenged by management. Michelle in her gentle and kind way, basically stated that they were not just out of line, but had made a grave mistake if they thought they had ANY say in who chose as friends. I’ll never forget the stunned faces, or the sudden shock at being so strongly challenged. Job or not, Tami was our friend, and being falsely accused of things she had no part in. We defended her honor, and they never again challenged us.
On that day our friendship was cemented, she became part of our lives. There are so many moments I remember from those times.
The day Tami showed up in full motorcycle drag, all wrapped in black leather with a black helmet and shaded face shield. She knocked on the door, I opened it and closed it back in her face, being not sure who the hell was at my door!. She knocked again and I opened, by then I had figured it out, and greeted her with a line from star wars. She was thereafter always known as ‘Darth’…
I remember her little postage stamp apartment in Oildale, and the day we spent helping her clean it up, it was disgusting. But we loved her so much we wanted to make sure that she got a chance to live the life she wanted. We felt honored to be able to help someone we cared about so much, we even got her to go to church (though she was sure the place would burn down once she got inside!).
She was there to hold Karan as a small child while Michelle was sick, she ate dinner with us, played with the kids, and ingrained herself into our lives.
Michelle hired her as an assistant in her Dad’s office, I’ll never forget Michelle’s Dad finding her sleeping at her desk!! She was a mess for sure, but to know her was to love her.
When life moved her to Texas and us to Idaho, I was still able to make her laugh from a distance. And I loved nothing more than poking fun at her, every chance I got.
On April 29th of 2012, she was traveling with her boyfriend from Austin, Texas heading to Pennsylvania to see her parents, she had not been feeling well for a few days. She made it home, but not alive. She passed away while riding in the truck.
Michelle and I have an empty place in our hearts now, we never expected someone so full of life and trouble to go at such a young age. During mass this morning Michelle wept, and neither of us could talk to the Father without tearing up. At 10:30 mass today, they said a prayer for her. We lit a candle in her honor and prayed that God would show his overwhelming mercy and grace on someone who struggled to find her place in this world, something that the ancient generations of Christians did as well. If our Father in heaven is anything like what I read scripture, then he will show mercy for her soul, and Michelle and I will meet her again.
We miss her so much, we loved her dearly, and we pray that her family has the strength to get through this.
Tami, Darth, The Dark One, who graced our lives, made us laugh, made us cry, drove us crazy, and became part of our family.
We love you, me miss you, we will see you again.
I’ve been thinking about writing this piece for a while, but I’ve also been reluctant to let it all out. But given the current political climate in the nation, the state of the church and the fact that it’s an election year, I might as well step into the fray.
Let’s start with the Obama administration, I have never seen more idealistic, deaf and frankly out of touch administration than this one. The Constitution seems to have no meaning, they will do anything to push their socialist agenda. So why anyone is surprised that they have used the HHS to push their contraceptive mandates on to church run organizations, is beyond me. All the signs were there during the election, all one had to do was do a little digging, and yet people voted with their emotions rather than their mind. The part that angers me the most is Catholics who voted for Obama, in my opinion they got what they deserved. We attended a meeting on Catholic ethics at our parish, and got a lecture from a bunch of old anti-war hippies about their anti war stances. These are the same people who still have Obama stickers on their cars, I simply can’t understand how you could still support someone whose goal is to restrict your religious freedoms, and still go to Mass.
But the Catholic church that exists in the United States is a shell of what it once was, we have been overtaken with the current psychology of the modern age, and are more concerned about not offending our laity than we are with the truth. We don’t even teach real orthodoxy any more, its all a mixture of light theology and emotionalism. As I’ve stated before, I’ve learned more about the Catholic faith from Orthodox writers than I have more Catholic ones. I’ve been reading the council of Trent, and found it interesting that there is a section devoted to Catechesis and it’s administration. Why are we not following that today?, why are we not back to the Sunday School model and taking the time to make sure the laity are instructed in the elements of our faith? Instead of praise bands, and coffee hours, let’s push instruction and education. We should not be afraid to teach people the basics of philosophy and apologetics, how else are we going to reach the world unless we have laity who are confident and KNOWLEDGEABLE about their faith?
I may disagree with certain points of Catholic Orthodoxy, but I love the Catholic church. It has brought stability to my faith and my life, but because I love it, I can see the faults and want to make it better. However I never became Catholic with the idea that I would mindlessly agree with every point the church teaches, I know there are some who would admonish me for that. But God gave me a mind for a reason, and when I see something I can’t agree with, I’m not going to lie to say otherwise, to do so would be to lose any self respect I have. I can’t stomach believers who become robots, echoing back everything the church teaches them without thought.
We are in the process of dumbing down the population of this country, I don’t know how to put it any other way, or even be polite about it anymore. I work for a utility, on any given week I am submitted to the most mind numbing, paradoxical thinking I’ve ever seen in my life. Everything is spoon fed to the workforce, the company spends an enormous amount of resources selling their agenda to their own employees. After a while people just go numb, you can’t win, you can’t argue, so you just have to suffer through it. And they wonder why people are apathetic, maybe it’s because instead of treating them like the professionals they are, you treat them all as if they are the lowest common denominator. A case in point is that we as employees had to sit through a week long class on performance in our culture, for me the experience bordered on a new age religion, we where bombarded with pop psychology, told to take the material home and have our family’s evaluate us ( request I refused and ultimately won, but only after getting the ‘it changed my life’ lecture from the instructor). We got the special privilege to hear managers tell us how this program changed their lives, their marriages and their family’s. It was so much like a religion that one gentlemen extolled the virtues by reciting the Evangelical mantra of reading your book everyday and practicing what it taught, it was honestly the same EXACT speech I heard for years in the baptist faith. The difference was this was a company mandated program. The ultimate goal was to make people accountable, but when it came time to do yearly goals, instead of practicing the very system they spent millions on. They spoon fed it the workforce, and wasted time making sure everyone was ‘aligned’. The irony is that had the program worked, simply stating what the goals where and that you are expected to meet them this year, would have been enough. Which is how it used to be done.
The next day two friends and I walked to a new restaurant to get lunch, they had a greeter who’s job as far as I can tell, was to tell us how get in line to order the food. It made me sad that something like that was even needed, the place had good food and a great layout. But if I need someone to show me the obvious then, I shouldn’t be out wondering on my own. I despise restaurants that feel the need to ‘educate’ diners on how their menu works, listen… If your menu is so complicated that I can’t just order the food I want, then I’m going to go eat somewhere else. I don’t need a speech on how to order my frigging food, you have a menu, I order what looks good. What’s so difficult about that? Am I missing something?, are people really that clueless? I may not want to know the answer to that anymore…
So about this election, let me go out on a limb here and say that I would like to see a good old fashion AGNOSTIC run for president for once. I’m sick and tired of being subjected to the candidates weird religious beliefs and statements. Romney’s a mormon, which has it’s own set of special issues (though I’m told by mormon friends, that he’s a jack mormon at that). The others are all various faiths, but when we get into areas of faith and politics people just say and do stupid things. The media love to find those little tidbits and make mountains out of them, and when you have people like Santorum’s wife commenting that his winning is ordained by God, I just want to go hide somewhere. I’m not actually enthused about any of the current crop, I don’t know where the real conservatives have gone, but boy do I miss them. This whole faith and politics things is such a mess anyway, I argued with a baptist minister one time about single issue voters. He stated that he would never, based on principle vote for someone who supported abortion. I told him that you where never going to find someone to agree with every single thing you believe, these are men, you take the good with the bad. I don’t support abortion, but in reality the President can only effect the issue by creating an activist supreme court. Roe vs Wade, I don’t think, could stand up to a good honest analysis at that level. So I would in fact vote for someone who is soft on the issue, as long as they elect constitutional judges, and not activists to the bench. You can’t think single issue with politics, it’s never that simple. Given the current crop of clowns, I don’t see this country turning around for a long time.
Apple released new products this week, the new iPad is cool and all. But honestly there’s nothing there that would cause me to leave my current iPad2 and upgrade. They really needed something more than just the retina display, I’m wondering if they are still floundering from the loss of Steve Jobs?. I sure hope they can recover. I love my Apple T.V. and MIGHT buy a new one for 1080p, but until the movie industry pulls their heads out of their hind ends and realizes that we now live in a digital content age, I’m reticent to support any format. Everything’s so fragmented, Hulu only shows certain shows on the computer, but not a console. Apple won’t support Hulu, and half the studio’s won’t even release shows to a digital format. I would PAY to see Lost Girl on iTunes, but for some unknown reason SyFy has refused to do so. I don’t get it. Then they go after the internet, using the guise of stopping piracy. Piracy’s not the issue, the industry is filled with dinosaurs who at every technological turn have resisted change, and then once forced have benefited financially from that change. Instead they keep pushing systems where they can control their content and greedily charge you for every viewing, remember DivX, well now they have ultraviolet, which is worse in many ways. I predict that what is going to happen, is the same thing that happened with CD’s, the industry is going to dig in and the rest of the world will simply start producing media through digital outlets, leaving the traditional industry in the dust.
John Piper, the voice of the reformed mindset, and all around narsisistic know it all. Has once again attempted Theodicy regarding the Tornado’s in the midwest. For those who don’t know Theodicy is the attempt to explain how evil can exist with an Omniscient and all loving creator. As usual Pat Robertson opened his big mouth and blathered about it as well, it’s not enough that we live in a fallen world where bad things happen. But these self appointed morons run out and do their best to make the rest of us look like a bunch of nut cases. In Pipers case, his reformed theology means that God is in control of EVERYTHING (this is known as a determinism) and free will is an illusion. So he has to justify the tornadoes, you can read his latest blather here: Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God I don’t understand why it’s not enough that people lost their lives, their homes, and entire towns where wiped from the face of the earth, on top of that you have to tell that God did it. Here’s an idea, maybe the WEATHER caused the Tornado and because people live in a area PRONE to tornadoes, they had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad things happen, if we are to represent the love of God then we should mobilize support, physical and moral to help those in need. Not blather on about some theological point that no one cares about.
It looks like spring is early this year, we ventured out twice this weekend to go to the driving range, I’m still as bad as ever. Some things never change, but I still enjoy playing Golf, so the love hate relationship will continue unabated. I’m hoping it says nice, and that spring comes early so I can get out more often, it’s been a dismal winter for some reason and I’m ready for some warmth and outdoor activities.
Time to go play… I feel better now
Tomorrow morning, I get the honor of being a lector for the final mass, before the church moves to the new translation. I also found out today that I get to lector on Christmas day, I’m very honored to get the chance to serve, and give something back, when so much has been given to me.
Tomorrow will be a historic day, the current translation was implemented in 1973, and the church in its wisdom has updated it to be more literally accurate based on the original text.
It’s going to be a big day!!!
10 years, 3000 innocent deaths, 2 wars, young men giving their lives for our freedoms. A world changed, and a country that lost its innocence in one horrifying day.
And then today this comes up in the Liturgy of the Word:
I will never be fully anti-war, no one could argue that we should have left Germany to their own devices. But maybe along the way we missed something crucial, maybe we over-reached, maybe, just maybe, we overreacted. I’m glad we got Osama, I would have pulled the trigger myself, and slept like a baby. I support our men and women who give so much, and get so little in return.
But this makes me wonder where we are headed, and what future generations will face.
10 years is a long time, a lifetime for some, I can still remember that Tuesday morning like it was yesterday, and it still deeply moves me. But now I feel sadness, and frustration at the futility of so much hate.
God Bless America, I love this country, and I worry about where we are headed.